Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Marginalia has been in the news of late. Recently, GalleyCat published a post on the release of Other People's Books, a collection of essays on marginalia, compiled by the Caxton Club that's to be release this spring. The Morgan Library is winding down a stunning exhibit that puts the research material and early drafts of Mark Twain on display. And the Ransom Center devotes a good portion of their archives to contemporary authors libraries. They have 300 volumes from David Foster Wallace's archives alone. It's a fascinating collection of 'handwritten comments, lists of words he found interesting, doodles, smiley faces, and underlining." It was far and away the most exciting part of our visit there.

Above are a few of the volumes from the DFW library at the Ransom Center. Annotating books is such a personal process (it's one of the reasons I'm not such a fan of lending or borrowing reads); it was thrilling getting to see the notations taken by a truly great fiction writer. And also to see them in the greater context as part of the author's creative process.

Annotated Copy of Underworld by Don DeLillo: "David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo corresponded frequently about their writing and their struggles when they were both working on complex and lenghty novels. DeLillo's Underworld (1997) and Wallace's Infinite Jest (1996). They also shared pre-published drafts of the novels with each other. Displayed here is one fo the three bound voumes of Wallace's heavily annotated copy of Don DeLillo's draft of Underworld. 
"David Foster Wallace's library includes a number of books he used for research related to his writings. He read this text while preparing for his posthumously published novel, The Pale King (April 2011), which centers on characters who work at the IRS."

I normally underline and take notes as I read. But I liked DFW's use of an index. It's nice to have a master list at the beginning to organize themes/motifs. My, inspired, copy of our book club read, Howard's End, is below.

 At the top are words I had to look up as I read
Adumbrated-To Conceal
Lucent- To produce a faint image of
Super Annuate- Retire someone with a pension
(Obviously, not something DFW would have had use for being essentially, as far as I can tell, a human dictionary)

The T's next to the page numbers are all those capital t truths that I mentioned in our earlier post. Tiny daily observations that make Howard's End, despite an overwraught plot, so great. My boyfriend was telling me that the very same eye for detail is often credited to Nicholson Baker. Baker in his books has been known to leave plot out all together, opting to relay the super-mundane in a super-mundane format, as in A Box of Matches, which follows one man's thought process as he throws matches into a dying fire. I'd love to have seen EM Forster try something as daring.

No comments:

Post a Comment